Based on a true story set in 1927 in Poland, this unusual adventure tale is filled with action and suspense. Jewish children in the orphanage in Mezritsh wish to escape poverty and hardship by emigrating to the United States, but quotas are in effect and the borders are effectively closed. Then a unique opportunity arises; a benefactor proposes that the orphans be brought to the Canadian Jewish Farm School near Toronto, where they will not only be safe and well-fed but they can learn important skills and, perhaps eventually, be able to immigrate to the U.S. via Canada. Their journey is eventful and filled with adventures, some exciting, others frightening, but they finally arrive at the farm school in Canada and begin to build new, productive lives.
Adding resonance and depth to the story, the children have been trained in music by a dedicated and talented music teacher at the orphanage in Poland, and protagonist Jacob has become a devoted and proficient player of the mandolin. The musical instruments accompany the children on their journey to the New World and the story culminates in the experience of a lifetime — an opportunity to play at a concert in New York’s famed Carnegie Hall.
This era, not often addressed in children’s literature, has been extensively researched by Dublin and her evocative descriptions bring the story to life. Historical notes add background and context and include a map as well as original black-and-white photographs featuring the orphans and others, scenes at the farm school and in New York, and the program from the concert at Carnegie Hall. A comprehensive list of sources is appended, and those suitable for further research by children of the age group are noted.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.